Mikulski, Shelby reach deal on funding bill

Senate Democrats and Republicans on the Appropriations Committee late Monday reached a deal on a $984 billion government funding bill to avert a government shutdown after March 27.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have signed off on the measure, which will be debated on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

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“We must prevent a government shutdown,” said Mikulski. “My Vice Chairman, Senator Shelby, and I worked together on this bipartisan agreement that avoids a shutdown, complies with the Budget Control Act, improves the House CR for many critical priorities, and lets us wrap up fiscal year 2013 so we can get to next year’s budget and find a balanced solution to sequester.”

"At a time when many doubt whether Congress can accomplish anything at all, this agreement is a very clear demonstration of our commitment to work together," Shelby said. 

In the agreement, Mikulski was forced to abandon a plan to grant the Obama administration new “enhanced reprogramming” authority to manage automatic cuts known as sequestration. The plan would have allowed agency heads to switch money around within their departments, subject to Appropriation subcommittee chairmen and ranking members approving the moves. 

Enough Republicans on the committee back the agreement that, pending a deal allowing GOP floor amendments, it is expected to pass the Senate.

The deal does not contain any provisions not already agreed to behind closed doors by House Republican appropriators, aides said. 

This should make it palatable to the House GOP and eliminate the risk of an impasse that closes government offices when the current stopgap continuing resolution expires.

House appropriators had not seen the final agreement before it was released Monday night and will study it before formally backing it, a GOP aide said.

The Senate deal amends the funding bill that passed the House last week by adding three full appropriations measures: the Agriculture bill, the Homeland Security bill and the Commerce, Justice and Science bill.

The Agriculture bill spends $20.5 billion, up from $19.6 billion. The CJS title is cut from $52.8 billion to $50.2 billion, and Homeland Security is flat at $39.6 billion.

Outside of the five full appropriations titles, the package also contains dozens of adjustments to other areas of the government, from diplomatic security to national parks.

Federal workers will not see a pay increase this year under the deal. It keeps in place a provision that cancels a 0.5 percent raise for workers set for March 27. Federal workers have not had a cost of living increase in more than two years — Mikuslki's state of Maryland is home to many.

The bill contains a payment of $193,400 for the widow of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the former chairman of the committee who died suddenly last year.

Like the House measure, it contains full Defense and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs titles.

By taking these agencies off stopgap status, the full bills will eliminate outdated and wasteful programs, appropriators say. This will allow them to better cope with $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that went into effect on March 1.

As in the House bill, the sequestration cuts are kept in place. The top-line number in the bill allows $1.043 trillion in spending this year, and subject to the sequester that number becomes $984 billion. 

The bill contains no new funding requested by the administration to implement President Obama's healthcare overhaul or to implement his financial sector reform law.

A full summary is available here.

—This story was updated on March 12 at 7:14 a.m.